Digital cameras come in two flavours:
- with optical viewfinder
- without optical viewfinder
Such a distinguishing feature is not an inconsistent one: it does make a difference!
Why do we care to have a real viewfinder
Store shelves are literally flooded by an increasing choice of ultra-compact digital cameras featuring high zoom ratio lens, wide screens, tons of pixels, full automatic flash, all packed into a super-slim lightweight body along with any sort of gadgets and wizardries.
As far as the consumer photographic market goes, one would say that often the smaller the better.
One drawback of such tiny cameras is that most of them do not feature a viewfinder anymore. Instead, they rely on an advanced electronic display that can be used as a viewfinder, that is as a means of framing and previewing pictures before taking the photograph. Such a feature is called live view or live preview.
It recalls somehow to us the old times when large format view camera photographers used a sheet of ground glass for the manual focusing and framing: the problem was (and still is now) that when the ambient light is too strong (tipically, when you are shooting outside in the sun) one cannot clearly look at the screen: the image fades out; here is why old times photographers had to shield themselves under a black cloth.
A viewfinder is handier.
Even more important, it is rather hard to hold the camera steady while composing and shooting with your arms outstretched; instead, an optical viewfinder allows you to press the camera against your face, thus enhancing stability and reducing wobble and shake.
Panning the camera is also uncomfortable without a viewfinder.
One more drawback of constantly using your rear display for shooting every single image is that batteries get obviously drained quite soon.
Short said, live preview is an useful feature, also because it eliminates the parallax error, but a standard, classical, optical viewfinder is an invaluable device. The bad news is that such kind of cameras are a species bound to extinction without recovery. We would have liked to select for you some of the best compact cameras on the market which still adopt optical viewfinders. Instead, we can only select for you some of the few cameras left of this kind. They are very few, but some of them are top quality, definitely.
If you are looking for a compact digital camera which should also have an optical viewfinder, chances are that you will find it here.
5.1MP Hello Kitty
Kid-Tough Digital Camera
DCC 5.0 Miniature Version of Classic Rangefinder
PowerShot SD780 IS
also known as
Digital IXUS 100 IS
Digital IXUS 95 IS
also known as
PowerShot SD1200 IS
PowerShot SD990 IS Digital ELPH
The bottom line
Compact cameras are increasingly evolving into very refined and sophisticated devices, able to shoot astonishing panoramas, macros, portraits, underwater photography and much more without effort and at a low (to moderate) price.
We think that an optical viewfinder should be available for best performance. Yet not all cameras are the same and just few models are left which feature a real viewfinder as opposite to an on screen view.
In order to get a an optical viewfinder you should buy a reflex camera, but compact devices are precious in that you can have them with you wherever you go.
We are firm on the matter: if you budget allows, definitely go for the Canon G12; it is one of the best digital cameras you can get today.